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October 9, 2015

UChicago professor wins Emmy for PBS series “Your Inner Fish”

On September 28, Organismal Biology and Anatomy Professor Neil Shubin attended the annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards to accept an award for his PBS series Your Inner Fish. PBS has already demonstrated interest in a sequel.

The documentary series, based on Shubin’s 2008 book, was nominated for two awards: Outstanding Science and Tech Production and Graphic Design and Art Direction. Your Inner Fish shares the award for the latter with another documentary series—National Geographic’s Future Cat.

Professor Shubin’s journey began in 2012 when the Howard Hughes Medical Institute approached him for rights to create a three-part documentary series based on his book.

“The whole goal of the show is to show that we’re deeply connected to the rest of the life on our planet. In every gene, organ, cell in our body, we have over three-and-a-half billion years of history,” according to Shubin.

Shooting, which began in the spring of 2013, took Shubin to destinations including the Arctic, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Shubin stayed on as a professor while the documentary was being made. “There were some days when I would finish lecture on Thursdays at three, hop on a plane, shoot a bunch of scenes, and come back on Tuesday at one to teach,” Shubin said.

As a result of the show, Shubin’s work has gained traction among younger audiences through social media and web-streaming services. According to him, the show’s publication on PBS Video online and Netflix has expanded his viewer population. Shubin has held live Twitter Q&A sessions in recent months with high school science classes.

“I think there is a sense of immediacy to it, and it’s kind of fun. I mean today, four or five high school kids tweet saying ‘I’ve got my biology test on Friday, Dr. Shubin, wish me luck,’ and I’ll just [favorite their tweet]. It makes their day,” Shubin said.

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